Firearms, Hunting Permits & Export of Trophies


Firearms, Hunting Permits & Export of Trophies


It is important to note that rules and regulations, in respect of firearms import permits, hunting permits and trophy export/import permits, as well as airline policies on firearms carriage, change from time to time. PHASA informs members of any changes, as soon as we become aware of them, through our e-newsletters and our website, and members and clients are welcome to contact the PHASA office to verify any issues of concern they may have. Clients are advised to verify airline firearm carriage policies, prior to making a booking.

Firearms importation: A temporary import permit is currently required to bring firearms into South Africa. We recommend that you apply for a pre-approved permit and that you use PHASA to process the application on your behalf. Our service includes meeting you at the South African Police Service office at OR Tambo International Airport with the pre-approved permits and assistance with clearing your firearms.

In order to process your application, we require all necessary documentation at least 25 days (in some cases six weeks) prior to your arrival. Our website contains comprehensive information on basic regulations, certain restrictions, special applications, airline policies, required supporting documents and our rates. Follow this link to the relevant page on our website.

It is anticipated that new firearms export requirements may be enforced in the United States, with effect from 2015. United States citizens should take note of this. Further information on these requirements may be obtained from the PHASA office, our website or the websites of Safari Club International, Dallas Safari Club and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Hunting permits: Most species can, as a general rule, be hunted, in terms of a so-called ‘Exemption Permit’ or equivalent permit. A hunting permit and/or hunting licence is required for all species not included in an exemption permit, which will depend on whether an open or closed hunting season applies to a particular species.

The client, professional hunter and outfitter must complete a Professional Hunter Register for each hunt. The register must list all hunting permits, including exemption permits, and it is of the utmost importance that registers be completed accurately (with a correct physical address for the client — PO Box addresses will not be accepted; and with first and last names spelled correctly — Bill, instead of William, is unacceptable) and signed by the professional hunter, the outfitter and the client.

The following species, listed on CITES Appendixes I or II, require Special Hunting Permits (only the more commonly hunted species are listed here):

•    Appendix I: leopard, black rhino, black-footed cat, Cape mountain zebra
•    Appendix II: hippo, elephant, lion, crocodile, bontebok, caracal, Hartmann zebra, white rhino, all monkeys, all baboons, blue duiker, African wild cat and red lechwe.

The following species, listed under the TOPS Regulations, require a TOPS hunting permit, in addition to the provincial permit (only the more commonly hunted species are listed here):

•    Leopard, lion, Nile crocodile, oribi, common reedbuck, bontebok, black wildebeest, elephant, black rhino, white rhino, blue duiker, roan antelope, serval, suni, tsessebe, Cape mountain zebra Sharpe’s grysbok, brown and spotted hyena.
The hunting outfitter must take out these hunting permits and the client MUST SIGN THEM PRIOR to the hunt commencing. Both must ensure that all particulars contained in the permit are correct and accurate, including the correct full names and physical address of the client. DO NOT hunt CITES/TOPS-listed animals, if you and your outfitter do not have a CITES/TOPS hunting permit with your correct details on hand, as it is against the law!

Some of the species are listed in both the CITES Appendices and TOPS, in which case one integrated export permit may be issued. Please note that the TOPS regulations are currently being revised. PHASA submitted comments on the draft revisions. We anticipate that the revised TOPS regulations will be implemented during the first quarter of 2016 and we will inform our members as soon as they are published.

Trophy export: South Africa has sound conservation management strategies in place. As a result, there are virtually no restrictions on the export of trophies from animals that were legally harvested. The following documentation forms part of the supporting documentation in the export permit application process:

•    A copy of the PH Register, signed by the client, the professional hunter and the hunting outfitter
•    All hunting permits (depending on the species/province where the hunt took place): original signed by the client
•    A CITES/TOPS hunting permit, if applicable: original signed by the client
•    CITES import permit into foreign countries for CITES Appendix I species (if applicable)
•    Nature Conservation Exemption Permit or CAE (Certificate of Adequate Enclosure)
•    Transfer of hunting rights from landowner to hunting outfitter (if not hunting on own property)
•    Permission to hunt from landowner/outfitter to client.

For CITES Appendix I species, the client must first apply for a CITES IMPORT permit from his local issuing authority. This permit may be obtained after the safari. On receipt of the import permit, a copy should be forwarded to the client’s taxidermist/clearing agents in South Africa, in order to apply for the CITES EXPORT permit. The export permit will not be issued without a copy of the import permit.

For CITES Appendix II species, the permit application procedure is the other way round: the South African taxidermist/forwarding/dip and pack agents apply directly for the CITES EXPORT permit, after which the CITES IMPORT permit will then be issued by the client’s home country.

The European Commission implemented new regulations for the importation into the European Union of lion, elephant, white rhino and hippo trophies, which came into effect on 5 February 2015, and in terms of which the client (or the clearing agent) must apply for an import permit before the consignment may be released for shipping. The new regulations can be found on the PHASA website.

The sections on hunting permits and trophy export were compiled with the kind assistance of Johan van der Merwe/Trophy Solutions and Magdel Boshoff at DEA.

Checklist: How to avoid USA trophy seizures and forfeitures

Reproduced with kind permission from John J Jackson III and Conservation Force.

•    Tags (CITES I species): Must be 1) self-locking; 2) permanently attached; 3) through a hole. Ear, eye, mouth, nose, bullet holes are fine, but not around a leg above the foot. Tag number must match that on the permit. Both the tag and export permit must contain the total annual quota, as well as that for the animal, e.g. 120/150.

•    Permit expiration: Examine a copy of the import permit before exporting to verify that it will not expire before arrival. Examine the export permit date to assure arrival before its expiration.

•    Export permit: Examine for errors of name of permittee, and name and number of species. To be valid, the permit must be dated, signed and sealed twice, i.e. once at issuance and again at endorsement at the time of shipment. The quota year and quota on the permit and tag are the year taken, but the quota for the year of export, if different, must also be indicated.

•    Validation/endorsement: Ensure that section 14 of the export permit is fully completed, i.e. all parts itemised, dated, signed and sealed by CITES or a customs officer, otherwise the permit is not complete.

•    Purpose code for crafted hunting trophies: Worked, crafted or manufactured parts of hunting trophies are, once again, coded as trophies with the letter ‘H’. New procedural requirements: both the export and import permits must ‘contain a complete itemisation and description of all items ... in the shipment’ and the crafted parts must be in the same shipment with the uncrafted parts. 50 CFR 23.74 (effective June 26, 2014).

•    Valuation: Understatement of value is the cause of excessive seizures, i.e. forfeiture of $50 000 trophies for a $500 offense. A true representative value should be used, not understated. Pro-rated cost of acquisition (cost of the hunt) is best or the insurance value. Note: trophies are not taxed upon entry into the US, but they most certainly are seized. The exporter should use the full value from the outset, as import brokers carry it over onto the declarations. Import agents especially heed this and enter the cost of acquisition for value on the 3-177 declaration form, particularly with a problem shipment! If unsure of the value, ask the client, but don’t understate it.

•    In transit: Transfer through intermediate countries must be immediate, without delay. A hunter travelling with his trophy cannot layover in an intermediate country without appropriate CITES import and re-export permits from that country. Layover requires a re-export permit from the layover country.

•    Post-shipment corrections: Export authorities must immediately contact and confer with the USFWS Headquarters of the Office of Law Enforcement (HQ/OLE), not local inspectors, before issuing a retrospective permit, not months later or after issuing a new permit. The Office of Law Enforcement’s e-mail address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The importing authorities must agree to the issuance of a retrospective permit beforehand. The importing agent must set corrective action in motion immediately and use cost of acquisition as market value of the trophy on the 3-177 Declaration entry form, rather than carry over as the value the export fee or some other incorrect figure from the export documents. In the case of loss of this retrospective permit, government-to-government consultation will be necessary and the replacement permits must state that they are replacements and why. 50 CFR 23.52.

•    Re-shipment: Send trophies back whenever you can, otherwise they will be treated as ‘contraband that is illegal to possess’, without any protectable interest, the same as stolen goods or illegal drugs.

•    Re-shipment import permits: When trophies are returned to the exporting country and re-shipped, new, original import permits are required because the originals are taken and marked ‘cancelled’.

•    Government errors: Most seizures and forfeitures arise from errors on the face of the export permit. Expect and search for all the above errors and expiration dates before shipment.